What is the feeling of jet lag?
If you’ve ever travelled long distances on a plane, then I’m sure that at some point you’ve felt the effects of jet lag: the overwhelming exhaustion, the inability to sleep at night and the mood swings that consequently arise out of this sleep deprivation.
It’s an extremely common experience, but one that can cause quite a bit of frustration. After all, you don’t really want to spend the first few days of your holiday trying to stave off these symptoms! The effects of jet lag can be subjective: some may find that they feel fine after the first day, whereas for others the symptoms can linger for much, much longer.
So, what can you do to speed up your recovery from jet lag? Well, below I’m going to look at a few issues that could be exacerbating your symptoms, making the whole experience more prolonged, and offer my advice on how you can go about tackling these problems.
Why is my jet lag lasting so long?
1. Are you going from west to east?
Are you flying out west to the USA and Canada, or are you going east towards Asia and Australia? The direction of your travel can sometimes dictate the length and severity of your jet lag symptoms. If you’re travelling east, for example, it’s generally understood that you will experience more intense jet lag symptoms.
There are a number of theories as to why: if you’re travelling west, you’re gaining hours, so your body (and thus your circadian rhythms) are given more time to adjust. If you’re travelling east, though, you are technically losing hours, which can make it more difficult for you to adjust to your new time zone.
What can you do?
Knowing really is half the battle – if you’re travelling east, at least you can start to prepare in advance. In my blog, ‘5 tips to beat jet lag’, I go into plenty of detail about how you can prepare for travelling and what you can do to minimalise the effects of jet lag. I’d highly suggest checking this out so you can do your best to reduce the length of your jet lag symptoms!
2. How many time zones are you flying through?
It makes sense that, the further you travel, the more intense your jet lag symptoms are going to be. If you’re only flying from London to Paris, then it’s unlikely you’ll experience any real jet lag symptoms as you’re only crossing one time zone.
If you’re going from London to Sydney, though, then this means you’ll be crossing 10 time zones! Your body clock, which has its own natural internal rhythms dependent on your exposure to light and dark, will understandably become unsynchronised, thus enabling jet lag symptoms.
What can you do?
Again, as with travelling from west to east, preparation is crucial. If you are crossing multiple time zones, it might help if you try to look at what time your flight arrives. Generally, flights that arrive in the morning offer more opportunity for adjustment; the increased exposure to sunlight and fresh air can help to regulate your circadian rhythm, reducing symptoms of fatigue.
3. What are conditions like on your plane?
Flying for hours at a time on-board an airplane can be an uncomfortable experience: you’re surrounded by other passengers, you have limited leg space and you’re expected to remain sedentary for long periods of time.
If you suffer from a pre-existing condition like varicose veins, or have a fear of flying, then the basic conditions of any flight are going to present problems. You also have to consider, too, that you’ll be breathing in recycled air which may irritate your skin and place you at risk of dehydration.
However, if conditions on your plane are especially poor - if the airline food disagrees with you, you’re surrounded by extremely noisy passengers or you’re really struggling with leg space – this means that, by the time you land, your stress levels are going to be ready to go through the roof, plus you could already be dealing with other symptoms such as leg cramps or digestive issues in addition to jet lag. Not a good recipe for a quick recovery!
What can you do?
There are a few things that you can do to improve your experience on a flight. Firstly, address any pre-existing conditions. If you have varicose veins, sensitive skin or an existing aversion to flying, then do something to make your journey a little easier. This could be regularly walking up and down the plane, packing some Venagel or taking a stress remedy such as Emergency Essence before take-off.
Hope for the best but, when in doubt, prepare for the worst. If the conditions on your flight are less than satisfactory, then once again, try to prepare in advance. This could mean doing something as simple as bringing earplugs with you on the plane or it could mean investing in a remedy like Tormentil to help overcome any tummy troubles en-route.
4. Are you taking bad habits with you?
Normally, if you’re travelling long distances it’s for a vacation so, understandably, you might want to get into the holiday spirit during your flight by ordering a few drinks or stocking up on sweet treats.
While there’s definitely nothing wrong with having a glass of something to start your flight, if this behaviour is consistent, it could potentially cause a few problems.
As I’ve already mentioned, you’re especially vulnerable to dehydration when flying and, if you’re drinking alcohol throughout the flight, this risk is going to increase and, thus, exacerbate any potential jet lag symptoms. It’s also worth noting here that caffeine is often used to help combat jet lag symptoms, sometimes in addition to alcohol!
The problem with caffeine, though, is, despite the short-term benefits you might feel, these don’t always last and, what you might not realise, is that caffeine can linger in your system – sometimes for up to 6 hours! That’s why it might not just be jet lag that has you tossing and turning for the first few nights of your holiday.
What can you do?
Keeping yourself hydrated throughout your flight should be a top priority, especially if you’re trying to reduce the length of your jet lag symptoms. That’s why I would try not to overdo it when it comes to alcohol or even caffeinated drinks on a flight. Instead, try to drink as much water as possible and, once you land, you could try a refreshing drink such as our Balance Mineral Drink to help take the edge off any feelings of fatigue or exhaustion.
5. Have your sleep patterns changed?
If you’re going on holiday there’s the temptation to push boundaries – to stay up later and to lie in longer. If you’re struggling to sleep at night anyway, you might think you’re just as well staying awake and making the most of your time away. As I’ve mentioned, too, on holiday we’re also more inclined to indulge in alcohol, sugary foods and other habits that could potentially disrupt our sleep.
Maintaining healthy sleep habits, though, is just as important abroad as it is at home. Ideally, you want to be helping your body adjust to the new time zone, not creating further problems by enhancing symptoms like sleep deprivation and fatigue.
What can you do?
It isn’t always easy adjusting to a new environment, so try to make sure you’ve done as much as possible to make where you’re sleeping as inviting as possible. If you’re in a different climate, make sure your bedroom isn’t too hot or too cold. Try to get out and about in the fresh air during the day as much as possible and avoid eating any heavy meals or drinking any alcohol for at least 2-3 hours before going to bed. If you have to, you could also try bringing a pillow with you from home if you find that helps you to sleep better.
If you really are finding it difficult to wind down while you’re away, you could try our gentle Dormeasan Sleep tincture. Prepared using organically grown extracts of Valerian and Hops, this helps your nervous system to relax, reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety, allowing you to unwind and drift into a deep, natural sleep.